GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Danged if you do. Danged if you don’t.
The night after Quinnipiac held North Dakota’s top line of super sophomores Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan to one power-play goal, the trio accounted for all four Fighting Sioux goals in a 4-2 win and nonconference sweep of the Bobcats at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“They’re just three hardworking guys with great hockey sense,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “They had probably the same amount of opportunities tonight as they had last night, but they were able to bury a few more of them tonight. I thought they played well together all weekend.”
Toews recorded his first collegiate hat trick, Duncan scored a goal and Oshie picked up three assists on a 10-point night for the line.
“I think they have to be one of the best lines in college hockey, if not the best line,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “They’re going to win a lot of games with that line.”
Oshie, who just missed scoring a shorthanded goal on a third-period breakaway, joked, “I think maybe if I had a 9 on the back of my jersey, it would have went in.”
That number belongs to Toews, an 18-year-old Manitoba native who was picked third overall by Chicago in the NHL draft last summer. Pecknold couldn’t help but be impressed by what he saw of Toews.
“A kid like Toews, he got after it tonight” he said. “That’s why he’s a great player and he won the game.”
After being held without a goal by the Bobcats on Friday, Toews wouldn’t be denied. He scored the first goal of the game at 6:37 of the first period, splitting the Quinnipiac defense and sliding a backhander past sophomore goalie Bud Fisher.
With UND clinging to a 2-1 lead at the start of the third period, Toews put the Sioux up by two at the 1:04 mark when he swatted in the puck as it lay between Fisher’s legs in the crease. The play was set up by Oshie’s wraparound attempt.
“The goalie, the puck was under his legs, and he just opened up,” Toews said. “Luckily, most refs will blow the whistle pretty quickly. I love those easy ones when they’re just sitting there. I’ll take them as they come.”
Fisher and Pecknold felt the puck should have been blown dead because it was covered under the goalie’s legs. But the goal stood and proved to be the game winner, as well as a back-breaker.
“Unfortunately, that that third goal was a killer,” Pecknold said. “We were just waiting for the whistle to get blown and it didn’t happen. Even so, we had a guy right on Toews and we lost the battle.”
“I thought the puck was under me and the whistle should have gone,” Fisher said. “The ref said the puck was loose the whole time and I disagreed with him. There’s not much you can say.”
Toews put the game out of reach at 14:12 with his hat-trick goal. Coming down the right side on a 2-on-1 rush with forward Erik Fabian, Toews sniped the puck short side and gave UND an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
“I was definitely thinking ‘shoot’ the whole way,” Toews laughed. “The third goal was definitely on my mind. I’m not going to sugar-coat it or nothing.”
UND hit the ice energized and repeatedly peppered Fisher in the opening period. After Toews’ first goal, Duncan struck at 11:28 of the first period, shooting in a rebound off defenseman Kyle Radke’s shot from the blue line.
Despite being badly outshot and outplayed for long stretches, Quinnipiac made it a 2-1 game at 5:12 of the second period. Bobcats freshman defenseman Jordan Zitoun went one-on-one with Sioux freshman defenseman Chay Genoway. Zitoun got around Genoway and shot the puck past junior goalie Philippe Lamoureux for an unassisted goal.
Quinnipiac closed out the scoring with a power-play goal by freshman center Brandon Wong at the 19:32 mark. Forward Jamie Bates hit Wong in the slot with a pass from behind the net and he fired a quick wrister past Lamoureux.
Although UND’s third and fourth lines scored four of the team’s six goals Friday, Hakstol wasn’t disappointed with their play Saturday.
“I thought we had some good opportunities from all four lines that easily we could have scored some goals,” he said. “On the flip side of that, I thought Quinnipiac defensively was a much tougher team. They were a tough team to play against, especially in the second and third period.”
If there was a bright spot for Quinnipiac, it was in shutting out UND on all five of its power-play attempts. The Bobcats were 1-for-4 on the power play. UND dominated the shots on goal with a 37-19 advantage. Fisher stopped 33 shots and Lamoureux had 17 saves.
UND begins conference play on the road at Wisconsin Oct. 13-14. Quinnipiac continues nonconference play at home against Robert Morris Oct. 13-14.